Airline Liable for Injuries Caused by Falling Baggage

A woman boarded an El Al plane at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport. After she took her seat, an aisle seat, another passenger started to put some luggage in the overhead compartment above. Unfortunately, as the passender did this, the passenger’s luggage hit her on the head. She sued El Al for damages. Under Article 17 section 1 of the Montreal Convention:

The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.

El Al denied liability and referred to Ypma v. Martinair, where the Amsterdam Court of Appeal held that a causal link needs to exist between the cause of the accident and the operation of the aircraft to establish an “accident” as defined in article 17 of the Warsaw Convention. In this 2003 decision the Court of Appeal therefore held that Martinair was not liable for the damages. The Amsterdam Court indeed ruled angainst the injured passenger, who decided to appeal and brought the case before the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. This time, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal decided in favour of the plaintiff.

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She cleaverly argued that under international law, the Montreal Convention shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose. Hence the Dutch courts may not limit the application of the articles of the Convention by requiring a casual link between the cause of the accident and the operation of the aircraft. Morever she referred to the US decision in Air France v. Saks, 470 U.S. 392 (1985), where the Court explained that the term “accident” in the Convention refers to an “unexpected or unusual event or happening that is external to the passenger.”

Indeed, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal came back on its previous decision and held that The Montreal convention makes the airlines automatically liable for any injury to the passenger that resulted from an “accident”. The airline is liable for all damagens sustained by the passenger.

Decision (in Dutch): X v. EL AL ISRAËL AIRLINES Ltd, 3 December 2013

How can Kernkamp Advocaten help?

Kernkamp Advocaten a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to all transport related accidents.

If you think that you have a case or require further information, please feel free to contact our contact person.

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